Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections. It also discusses the state of the parties. The state of the GOP is not good. Case in point: the infamous Elise Stefanik.
When Congress reconvenes, many of the younger, more Trump-critical Republicans who joined the House alongside Ms. Stefanik eight years ago will be gone. So will all but two of the Republicans who voted to impeach him. Some in Congress believe that if Mr. McCarthy cannot corral the votes to make himself speaker, Ms. Stefanik could offer herself up as a compromise candidate.
Yet her position may be more precarious than it appears. Unwilling to acknowledge that her politics have changed, she has never offered MAGA die-hards a persuasive conversion story, leaving behind lingering suspicion. “One thing I’ve heard consistently from pro-Trump members is that the 180 that she pulled was just so jarring,” said one veteran Republican lobbyist who is in touch with a wide array of Republican lawmakers.
Among her fellow Republicans, according to Republican lawmakers, Hill staff and lobbyists, Ms. Stefanik has a reputation for being both diligent in advancing the party’s message and unabashedly transactional in amassing chits of support for her own climb up the ladder. But her campaign donations and endorsements have given her support that may be more broad than deep. For much of the spring and summer, while serving as conference chair, she quietly tested the waters for promotion to the next highest-ranking House job, that of Republican whip. As the race grew more crowded, however, Ms. Stefanik found herself without a clear constituency for the position. The party’s remaining moderates no longer saw her as one of them, and its right wing preferred a more consistent conservative. Only when another House member announced his interest in succeeding her as conference chair did Ms. Stefanik finally commit to running for another term in her old job.
News stories about the upcoming presidential campaign still mention Ms. Stefanik as a rising star who might join a Trump ticket in 2024 — a political pole vault that would carry her, finally, to the very top of the Republican Party. But within the president’s inner circle, according to two people close to Mr. Trump, stories casting Ms. Stefanik as a potential running mate are regarded as clumsy plants by her own team, and inspire bemusement and mockery. Mr. Trump liked her, they said, and liked watching her defend him. But even he didn’t trust her.